I don’t like every Stephen King book. Yes, I happen to firmly believe that The Stand is a modern classic. I also happen to believe that The Shining is the perfect horror novel, the standard by which other horror novels should be measured. It is perhaps the best book for a writer to study if she wants to know how to write characters that move the reader. But many of the other books just don’t do much for me. Some of them are a passable way to spend time, others of them are just downright bad. (I really hated The Dark Half.)
I think I’ve read every Stephen King book except From a Buick 8; The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon and the Dark Tower series.
Last Friday I broke down and purchased 11/22/63 for the Kindle in spite of the facts that I couldn’t care less who killed JFK and I felt like The Dome was a bloaty waste of time. I bought it because King’s real strength, in my opinion, is giving a strong sense of characters and place. You are scared in his books because you care about the people the scary things happen to. From the description of this new book it sounds like a playground for his greatest talent and I was eager to try it out.
But first I have to murder a bunch of reviewers.
I googled the reviews for the book after I bought it; actually I was looking for spoilers and several reviews were tossed in the search engine soup. Each review, whether it was on a blog or in a newspaper started off pretty much the same way. “Believe it or not, I have never read a Stephen King book.”
They say it with a sort of pride, as though they are too busy reading things of weighty importance to give any credence at all to reading for fun. And then they spend the rest of their piece explaining exactly why this Stephen King work is a Thing Of Weighty Importance and worthy of their–and your–precious time.
Years ago I picked a side in the Literature Wars; even though I read whatever catches my fancy despite the category I feel bad for what has become slagged off as “Genre fiction”. Like every good fat girl, I side with the underdog. I don’t care if people don’t read something because it doesn’t sound interesting to them. I don’t mind if a reader passes by a book that doesn’t strike their mood. Those are honest and mature reactions, self-directedly sensible.
I mind greatly when people won’t read a book because of preconceived notions or peer pressure. “I wouldn’t be caught dead reading Genre Fiction.” This bothers me because the implication is that a book is good not because of how it is written but because of how it appears to other people if you read it. It’s the reading equivalent of designer clothes.
I suppose perhaps the best part of 11/22/63 is going to be just how many book snobs can no longer claim to have never read King. In the end “good read” should always win.